William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare
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{{About|the poet and playwright|other persons of the same name|William Shakespeare (disambiguation)|other uses of "Shakespeare"|Shakespeare (disambiguation)}}{{pp-semi-indef}}{{short description|16th and 17th-century English playwright and poet}}{{Use dmy dates|date=June 2018}}{{EngvarB|date=June 2018}}

Elizabethan era>Jacobean}}| movement = English Renaissance| yearsactive = c. 1585–1613Anne Hathaway (wife of Shakespeare)>1582}}Susanna HallHamnet Shakespeare>Judith Quiney}}| father = John ShakespeareMary Shakespeare>Mary Arden| signature = William Shakespeare Signature.svg}}William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616){{efn|Dates follow the Julian calendar, used in England throughout Shakespeare's lifespan, but with the start of the year adjusted to 1 January (see Old Style and New Style dates). Under the Gregorian calendar, adopted in Catholic countries in 1582, Shakespeare died on 3 May.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=xv}}}} was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist.{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=11}}{{sfn|Bevington|2002|pp=1–3}}{{sfn|Wells|1997|p=399}} He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon".{{sfn|Dobson|1992|pp=185–186}}{{efn|The "national cult" of Shakespeare, and the "bard" identification, dates from September 1769, when the actor David Garrick organised a week-long carnival at Stratford to mark the town council awarding him the freedom of the town. In addition to presenting the town with a statue of Shakespeare, Garrick composed a doggerel verse, lampooned in the London newspapers, naming the banks of the Avon as the birthplace of the "matchless Bard".{{sfn|McIntyre|1999|pp=412–432}}}} His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays,{{efn|The exact figures are unknown. See Shakespeare's collaborations and Shakespeare Apocrypha for further details.}} 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.{{sfn|Craig|2003|p=3}}Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|pp=xvii–xviii}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1991|pp=41, 66, 397–398, 402, 409}}{{sfn|Taylor|1990|pp=145, 210–223, 261–265}} Such theories are often criticised for failing to adequately note that few records survive of most commoners of the period.Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613.{{sfn|Chambers|1930a|pp=270–271}}{{sfn|Taylor|1987|pp=109–134}}{{efn|Individual play dates and precise writing span are unknown. See Chronology of Shakespeare's plays for further details.}} His early plays were primarily comedies and histories and are regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. Until about 1608, he wrote mainly tragedies, among them Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language.{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=11}}{{sfn|Bevington|2002|pp=1–3}}{{sfn|Wells|1997|p=399}} In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies (also known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights.Many of Shakespeare's plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy in his lifetime. However, in 1623, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare's, John Heminges and Henry Condell, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works that included all but two of his plays.{{sfn|Greenblatt|Abrams|2012|p=1168}} The volume was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Jonson presciently hails Shakespeare in a now-famous quote as "not of an age, but for all time".{{sfn|Greenblatt|Abrams|2012|p=1168}}Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Shakespeare's works have been continually adapted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain popular and are studied, performed, and reinterpreted through various cultural and political contexts around the world.


Early life

William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover (glove-maker) originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=14–22}} He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual date of birth remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, Saint George's Day.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=24–26}} This date, which can be traced to a mistake made by an 18th-century scholar, has proved appealing to biographers because Shakespeare died on the same date in 1616.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=24, 296}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|pp=15–16}} He was the third of eight children, and the eldest surviving son.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=23–24}}File:William Shakespeares birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon 26l2007.jpg|thumb|upright=0.9|left|John Shakespeare's house, believed to be Shakespeare's birthplace, in Stratford-upon-AvonStratford-upon-AvonAlthough no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford,{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=62–63}}{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=53}}{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|pp=xv–xvi}} a free school chartered in 1553,{{sfn|Baldwin|1944|p=464}} about a quarter-mile (400 m) from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but grammar school curricula were largely similar: the basic Latin text was standardised by royal decree,{{sfn|Baldwin|1944|pp=179–180, 183}}{{sfn|Cressy|1975|pp=28–29}} and the school would have provided an intensive education in grammar based upon Latin classical authors.{{sfn|Baldwin|1944|p=117}}At the age of 18, Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. The consistory court of the Diocese of Worcester issued a marriage licence on 27 November 1582. The next day, two of Hathaway's neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=77–78}} The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste since the Worcester chancellor allowed the marriage banns to be read once instead of the usual three times,{{sfn|Wood|2003|p=84}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=78–79}} and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, baptised 26 May 1583.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=93}} Twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=94}} Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=224}}File:Shakespeare coat-of-arms.jpg|thumb|Shakespeare's coat of arms, as it appears on the rough draft of the application to grant a coat-of-arms to John Shakespeare. It features a spear as a pun on the family name.{{efn|The crest is a silver falcon supporting a spear, while the motto is Non Sanz Droict (French for "not without right"). This motto is still used by Warwickshire County CouncilWarwickshire County CouncilAfter the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592. The exception is the appearance of his name in the "complaints bill" of a law case before the Queen's Bench court at Westminster dated Michaelmas Term 1588 and 9 October 1589.{{sfn|Bate|2008|p=314}} Scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare's "lost years".{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=95}} Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many (wikt:apocryphal|apocryphal) stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare's first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer poaching in the estate of local squire Thomas Lucy. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=97–108}}{{sfn|Rowe|1709}} Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=144–145}} John Aubrey reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=110–111}} Some 20th-century scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire, a Catholic landowner who named a certain "William Shakeshafte" in his will.{{sfn|Honigmann|1999|p=1}}{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xvii}} Little evidence substantiates such stories other than (wikt:hearsay|hearsay) collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area.{{sfn|Honigmann|1999|pp=95–117}}{{sfn|Wood|2003|pp=97–109}}

London and theatrical career

It is not known definitively when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592.{{sfn|Chambers|1930a|pp=287, 292}} By then, he was sufficiently known in London to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his Groats-Worth of Wit:... there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=213}}Scholars differ on the exact meaning of Greene's words,{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=213}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=153}} but most agree that Greene was accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match such university-educated writers as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and Greene himself (the so-called "University Wits").{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=176}} The italicised phrase parodying the line "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3, along with the pun "Shake-scene", clearly identify Shakespeare as Greene's target. As used here, Johannes Factotum ("Jack of all trades") refers to a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common "universal genius".{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=213}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=151–153}}Greene's attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare's work in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene's remarks.{{sfn|Wells|2006|p=28}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=144–146}}{{sfn|Chambers|1930a|p=59}} After 1594, Shakespeare's plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company in London.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=184}} After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new King James I, and changed its name to the King's Men.{{sfn|Chambers|1923|pp=208–209}}}}In 1599, a partnership of members of the company built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames, which they named the Globe. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. Extant records of Shakespeare's property purchases and investments indicate that his association with the company made him a wealthy man,{{sfn|Chambers|1930b|pp=67–71}} and in 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place, and in 1605, invested in a share of the parish tithes in Stratford.{{sfn|Bentley|1961|p=36}}Some of Shakespeare's plays were published in quarto editions, beginning in 1594, and by 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the title pages.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=188}}{{sfn|Kastan|1999|p=37}}{{sfn|Knutson|2001|p=17}} Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of Ben Jonson's Works names him on the cast lists for Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus His Fall (1603).{{sfn|Adams|1923|p=275}} The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson's Volpone is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end.{{sfn|Wells|2006|p=28}} The First Folio of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of "the Principal Actors in all these Plays", some of which were first staged after Volpone, although we cannot know for certain which roles he played.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=200}} In 1610, John Davies of Hereford wrote that "good Will" played "kingly" roles.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=200–201}} In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet's father.{{sfn|Rowe|1709}} Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in As You Like It, and the Chorus in Henry V,{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=357}}{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxii}} though scholars doubt the sources of that information.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=202–203}}Throughout his career, Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, north of the River Thames.{{sfn|Hales|1904|pp=401–402}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=121}} He moved across the river to Southwark by 1599, the same year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there.{{sfn|Hales|1904|pp=401–402}}{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|p=122}} By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of St Paul's Cathedral with many fine houses. There, he rented rooms from a French Huguenot named Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of ladies' wigs and other headgear.{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=325}}{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=405}}

Later years and death

File:ShakespeareMonument cropped.jpg|thumb|upright|Shakespeare's funerary monumentShakespeare's funerary monumentRowe was the first biographer to record the tradition, repeated by Johnson, that Shakespeare retired to Stratford "some years before his death".{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=476}}{{sfn|Wood|1806|pp=ix–x, lxxii}} He was still working as an actor in London in 1608; in an answer to the sharers' petition in 1635, Cuthbert Burbage stated that after purchasing the lease of the Blackfriars Theatre in 1608 from Henry Evans, the King's Men "placed men players" there, "which were Heminges, Condell, Shakespeare, etc.".{{sfn|Smith|1964|p=558}} However, it is perhaps relevant that the bubonic plague raged in London throughout 1609.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=477}}{{sfn|Barroll|1991|pp=179–182}} The London public playhouses were repeatedly closed during extended outbreaks of the plague (a total of over 60 months closure between May 1603 and February 1610),{{sfn|Bate|2008|pp=354–355}} which meant there was often no acting work. Retirement from all work was uncommon at that time.{{sfn|Honan|1998|pp=382–383}} Shakespeare continued to visit London during the years 1611–1614.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=476}} In 1612, he was called as a witness in Bellott v. Mountjoy, a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy's daughter, Mary.{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=326}}{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|pp=462–464}} In March 1613, he bought a gatehouse in the former Blackfriars priory;{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=272–274}} and from November 1614, he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law, John Hall.{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=387}} After 1610, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=279}} His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher,{{sfn|Honan|1998|pp=375–378}} who succeeded him as the house playwright of the King's Men.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=276}}Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616, at the age of 52.{{efn|Inscribed in Latin on his funerary monument: (In his 53rd year he died 23 April).}} He died within a month of signing his will, a document which he begins by describing himself as being in "perfect health". No extant contemporary source explains how or why he died. Half a century later, John Ward, the vicar of Stratford, wrote in his notebook: "Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and, it seems, drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted",{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1991|p=78}}{{sfn|Rowse|1963|p=453}} not an impossible scenario since Shakespeare knew Jonson and Drayton. Of the tributes from fellow authors, one refers to his relatively sudden death: "We wondered, Shakespeare, that thou went'st so soon / From the world's stage to the grave's tiring room."{{sfn|Kinney|2012|p=11}}{{efn|Verse by James Mabbe printed in the First Folio.{{sfn|Kinney|2012|p=11}}}}File:Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.jpg|thumb|left|Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was baptised and is buried]]He was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607,{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=287}} and Judith had married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, two months before Shakespeare's death.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=292–294}} Shakespeare signed his last will and testament on 25 March 1616; the following day, his new son-in-law, Thomas Quiney was found guilty of fathering an illegitimate son by Margaret Wheeler, who had died during childbirth. Thomas was ordered by the church court to do public penance, which would have caused much shame and embarrassment for the Shakespeare family.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=292–294}}Shakespeare bequeathed the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=304}} under stipulations that she pass it down intact to "the first son of her body".{{sfn|Honan|1998|pp=395–396}} The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying.{{sfn|Chambers|1930b|pp=8, 11, 104}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=296}} The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare's direct line.{{sfn|Chambers|1930b|pp=7, 9, 13}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=289, 318–319}} Shakespeare's will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one-third of his estate automatically.{{efn|Charles Knight, 1842, in his notes on Twelfth Night.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1991|p=275}}}} He did make a point, however, of leaving her "my second best bed", a bequest that has led to much speculation.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=483}}{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=16}}{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|pp=145–146}} Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=301–303}}File:Shakespeare grave -Stratford-upon-Avon -3June2007.jpg|thumb|Shakespeare's grave, next to those of Anne Shakespeare, his wife, and Thomas NashThomas NashShakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=306–307}}{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xviii}} The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008:{{sfn|BBC News|2008}}Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,To digg the dvst encloased heare.Bleste be (File:Middle English the.svg|Middle English the.svg) man (File:Middle English that.svg|Middle English that.svg) spares thes stones,And cvrst be he (File:Middle English that.svg|Middle English that.svg) moves my bones.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=306}}{{efn|In the scribal abbreviations ye for the (3rd line) and yt for that (3rd and 4th lines) the letter y represents th: see thorn.}}(Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blessed be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones.)Some time before 1623, a funerary monument was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=308–310}} In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published.{{sfn|Cooper|2006|p=48}}Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.{{sfn|Westminster Abbey|n.d.}}{{sfn|Southwark Cathedral|n.d.}}


(File:Procession of Characters from Shakespeare's Plays - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|center|upright=2.25|Procession of Characters from Shakespeare's Plays by an unknown 19th-century artist)Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career.{{sfn|Thomson|2003|p=49}} Some attributions, such as Titus Andronicus and the early history plays, remain controversial while The Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost Cardenio have well-attested contemporary documentation. Textual evidence also supports the view that several of the plays were revised by other writers after their original composition.The first recorded works of Shakespeare are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. Shakespeare's plays are difficult to date precisely, however,{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=9}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=166}} and studies of the texts suggest that Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona may also belong to Shakespeare's earliest period.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|pp=159–161}}{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=9}} His first histories, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland,{{sfn|Dutton|Howard|2003|p=147}} dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the Tudor dynasty.{{sfn|Ribner|2005|pp=154–155}} The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of Seneca.{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=105}}{{sfn|Ribner|2005|p=67}}{{sfn|Bednarz|2004|p=100}} The Comedy of Errors was also based on classical models, but no source for The Taming of the Shrew has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story.{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=136}}{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=166}} Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which two friends appear to approve of rape,{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=91}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|pp=116–117}}{{sfn|Werner|2001|pp=96–100}} the Shrew's story of the taming of a woman's independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics, directors, and audiences.{{sfn|Friedman|2006|p=159}}File:Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake. c.1786.jpg|thumb|left|Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. By William Blake, c. 1786. Tate BritainTate BritainShakespeare's early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his most acclaimed comedies.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=235}} A Midsummer Night's Dream is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes.{{sfn|Wood|2003|pp=161–162}} Shakespeare's next comedy, the equally romantic Merchant of Venice, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences.{{sfn|Wood|2003|pp=205–206}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=258}} The wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing,{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=359}} the charming rural setting of As You Like It, and the lively merrymaking of Twelfth Night complete Shakespeare's sequence of great comedies.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|pp=362–383}} After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work.{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|p=150}}{{sfn|Gibbons|1993|p=1}}{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=356}} This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death;{{sfn|Wood|2003|p=161}}{{sfn|Honan|1998|p=206}} and Julius Caesar—based on Sir Thomas North's 1579 translation of Plutarch's Parallel Lives—which introduced a new kind of drama.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|pp=353, 358}}{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|pp=151–153}} According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar, "the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare's own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other".{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|p=151}}File:Henry Fuseli rendering of Hamlet and his father's Ghost.JPG|thumb|Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and the Ghost of Hamlet's Father. Henry Fuseli, 1780–1785. Kunsthaus ZürichKunsthaus ZürichIn the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "problem plays" Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All's Well That Ends Well and a number of his best known tragedies.{{sfn|Bradley|1991|p=85}}{{sfn|Muir|2005|pp=12–16}} Many critics believe that Shakespeare's greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, Hamlet, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy which begins "To be or not to be; that is the question".{{sfn|Bradley|1991|p=94}} Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement.{{sfn|Bradley|1991|p=86}} The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves.{{sfn|Bradley|1991|pp=40, 48}} In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him.{{sfn|Bradley|1991|pp=42, 169, 195}}{{sfn|Greenblatt|2005|p=304}} In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play-offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty".{{sfn|Bradley|1991|p=226}}{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=423}}{{sfn|Kermode|2004|pp=141–142}} In Macbeth, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies,{{sfn|McDonald|2006|pp=43–46}} uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne until their own guilt destroys them in turn.{{sfn|Bradley|1991|p=306}} In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, contain some of Shakespeare's finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T.S. Eliot.{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=444}}{{sfn|McDonald|2006|pp=69–70}}{{sfn|Eliot|1934|p=59}}In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors.{{sfn|Dowden|1881|p=57}} Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare's part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day.{{sfn|Dowden|1881|p=60}}{{sfn|Frye|2005|p=123}}{{sfn|McDonald|2006|p=15}} Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, probably with John Fletcher.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|pp=1247, 1279}}


It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xx}} After the plagues of 1592–3, Shakespeare's plays were performed by his own company at The Theatre and the Curtain in Shoreditch, north of the Thames.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxi}} Londoners flocked there to see the first part of Henry IV, Leonard Digges recording, "Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest ... and you scarce shall have a room".{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|p=16}} When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the Globe Theatre, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark.{{sfn|Foakes|1990|p=6}}{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|pp=125–131}} The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with Julius Caesar one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare's greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.{{sfn|Foakes|1990|p=6}}{{sfn|Nagler|1958|p=7}}{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|pp=131–132}}File:Shakespeare´s Globe (8162111781).jpg|thumb|left|The reconstructed Globe Theatre on the south bank of the River Thames in LondonLondonAfter the Lord Chamberlain's Men were renamed the King's Men in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James. Although the performance records are patchy, the King's Men performed seven of Shakespeare's plays at court between 1 November 1604, and 31 October 1605, including two performances of The Merchant of Venice.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxii}} After 1608, they performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre during the winter and the Globe during the summer.{{sfn|Foakes|1990|p=33}} The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In Cymbeline, for example, Jupiter descends "in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees."{{sfn|Ackroyd|2006|p=454}}{{sfn|Holland|2000|p=xli}}The actors in Shakespeare's company included the famous Richard Burbage, William Kempe, Henry Condell and John Heminges. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare's plays, including Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.{{sfn|Ringler|1997|p=127}} The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, among other characters.{{sfn|Schoenbaum|1987|p=210}}{{sfn|Chambers|1930a|p=341}} He was replaced around 1600 by Robert Armin, who played roles such as Touchstone in As You Like It and the fool in King Lear.{{sfn|Shapiro|2005|pp=247–249}} In 1613, Sir Henry Wotton recorded that Henry VIII "was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony".{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=1247}} On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=1247}}{{clear}}

Textual sources

File:Title page William Shakespeare's First Folio 1623.jpg|thumb|upright|Title page of the First Folio, 1623. Copper engraving of Shakespeare by Martin DroeshoutMartin DroeshoutIn 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare's friends from the King's Men, published the First Folio, a collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxxvii}} Many of the plays had already appeared in quarto versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxxiv}} No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as "stol'n and surreptitious copies".{{sfn|Pollard|1909|p=xi}} Nor did Shakespeare plan or expect his works to survive in any form at all; those works likely would have faded into oblivion but for his friends' spontaneous idea, after his death, to create and publish the First Folio.{{sfn|Mays|Swanson|2016}}Alfred Pollard termed some of the pre-1623 versions as "bad quartos" because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|p=xxxiv}}{{sfn|Pollard|1909|p=xi}}{{sfn|Maguire|1996|p=28}} Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or printing errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare's own papers.{{sfn|Bowers|1955|pp=8–10}}{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|pp=xxxiv–xxxv}} In some cases, for example, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, and Othello, Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of King Lear, however, while most modern editions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto that the Oxford Shakespeare prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion.{{sfn|Wells|Taylor|Jowett|Montgomery|2005|pp=909, 1153}}

Influence from neighbours in London

Ten years of research by Geoffrey Marsh of the Victoria and Albert Museum in LondonDaily Telegraph, Saturday 13 April, page 3

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